Archives For Esperanza International

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As a child, Ramona Rodriguez didn’t have the opportunity to attend school or learn to read. Though she refused to let illiteracy hold her back, the challenge cemented Ramona’s determination that her children would never face that obstacle in life. Whatever sacrifices she must make, her four children would go to school.

That resolve propelled Ramona, even as she mourned the untimely death of her husband and the father of her still-young children. As a single mother in Villa Mella, Dominican Republic, she worked multiple jobs—selling cleaning supplies and clothing and tending other people’s homes—to ensure she could feed her children and send them to school.

After several years, Ramona remarried, but her drive to provide never wavered. Ramona’s mother raised her to believe that nothing can be accomplished without the Lord—and Ramona now sees how He blessed her with an indomitable spirit, strong faith, and innate business sense that have helped her become the successful businesswoman she is today.

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Each year, HOPE celebrates a client who demonstrates HOPE’s values of perseverance, compassion, character, and creativity by announcing the Thurman Award winner. Established in honor of HOPE’s first CEO and his wife, the Thurman Award celebrates clients who have not only experienced change in their own lives but have also extended that transformation to others in their community. Over the next couple of weeks, we will be posting the stories of this year’s honorable mentions and overall winner.

For Marilyn Ciprian, serving God as a businesswoman means dedicating each day—and each transaction—to the Lord. “May God bless this day and multiply things in accordance with His glory,” she writes each morning in her account book. Thus begins her search for opportunities to serve Christ as she opens her convenience store—appropriately named La Gran Comision or “The Great Commission”—in San Pedro de Macorís, Dominican Republic.

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Danius

Perhaps the Bible speaks so much about money not only because God cares how we spend it but also because of its undeniable effect on relationships. In Ouanaminthe, Haiti, where money is in relatively short supply, Danius Joseph shares how a $200 loan from HOPE’s partner Esperanza International revolutionized his business and gave him “the means to live in a community.”

For years, Danius had to carefully balance the funds to feed his wife and three children, aged 2-5, against the funds he would save to buy produce for resale on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays when a bustling market opened just across the Haitian border in the Dominican Republic. All too often, he found himself with too little to do either. “My children got used to going to bed hungry,” Danius says, and he frequently borrowed from neighbors to finance his small business. His requests for money were met with resentment by those who had little to spare, straining relationships, branding him a beggar, and placing Danius under the stress of having debts to settle at the end of each working day.

Danius wanted to give to his community, not take from it, so when he wasn’t working, he was volunteering. He taught Sunday school, joined the local church choir, and was introduced to Esperanza when he served as an instructor in a community-based literacy program they funded and initiated. Yet within his community, Danius’ pleas for money overshadowed his volunteerism. He wasn’t respected by others, and he says he couldn’t respect himself.

In January 2011, a $200 loan from Esperanza gave Danius a fresh start. He was already resourceful, entrepreneurial, and ambitious, and he knew his business well. With this lump sum, each trip to the border would be increasingly productive. He was accustomed to working with loans of only $25 that had to be repaid after just one day, so with six months and a much larger sum, Danius knew he could turn a profit. He also recognized the cost of idle time and now had the means to address it. With the market open only three days per week, Danius registered as a vendor for pre-paid cell phone credit, a popular product in his community, enabling him to work close to home and generate additional income when the market was closed.

Danius at his phone stand

When his community bank needed to elect a president, again Danius stepped up to serve. As president, he coordinates repayment meetings for his group and helps to teach and lead the meetings alongside his loan officer. Since his first loan, Danius has received additional loans of $250 and $300. Neighbors have noticed his wise money management and the ways in which his life has changed, and though they once looked down on him as a beggar, they now admire him as an insightful advisor.

When others seek advice, Danius is eager to share of Esperanza, where he received not only loans but also dignity and respect as well as biblically based training. He’s inspired others in Ouanaminthe to work hard and persevere in providing for their families. Heeding his counsel, so many community members wanted to join Esperanza that a second community bank was formed. Though Danius is not required to attend the meetings of this second bank, he faithfully takes part so that he can encourage these members as they pursue the path that has brought such transformation to his own life. He smiles confidently as he points to the bicycle he now rides to meetings, which he purchased with his profits.

When people see you riding on a bicycle, they know that you are going somewhere to do work … and that you are able to provide for your family.

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I am on a plane approaching Nashville after spending a day interacting with clients of Esperanza International—HOPE’s partner in the Dominican Republic—in their businesses, in their homes, and on their streets in the Dominican Republic.

Yesterday I found myself walking down a muddy road from a bank meeting where we listened to clients lifting their voices to God in worship and reading from Scripture. We made the commute to one client’s business. A 10-minute walk and we had arrived at Anita’s corner store. Anita called to her daughter to open the store as we approached and soon we were peering into the small part of her home that doubles as a shop where people on her street pick up snacks and cold drinks. She explained to us with a joy-filled smile how business had been that morning. The customers had just kept coming, buying bread and milk powder for their children’s breakfast. From 6:50 a.m. until she closed up to make her way to the loan meeting, she had served customer after customer. Continue Reading…